Photography: James T. Parks
After a successful Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, VA, General Lee initiates a second invasion of the North. The bulk of his forces proceed north through the Shenandoah Valley into Pennsylvania. Union General Meade, recently elevated as Union commander of the Army of the Potomac, is also in Pennsylvania, searching for Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Contingents of each Army converge near the prosperous crossroads town of Gettysburg, PA on July 1, 1863--and the bloodshed promptly begins.
By the next day, both armies had arrived in full force and faced off from opposing ridgelines across a broad valley. Confederate forces attack the Union’s left flank late in the day, but it stalls by dusk. On July 3rd, Lee attacks the Union middle across three-quarters of a mile of open ground in what has become known as the ill-fated “Pickett’s Charge.”
Confederate General Pickett’s division takes withering cannon and rifle fire and loses two-thirds of its men in the failed assault. On July 4th Lee withdraws his army, retreating back to Virginia. On that same day Union General Ulysses S. Grant achieves a pivotal victory at Vicksburg, MS. These two Union successes irrevocably turn the tide of the Civil War.
Victory at Gettysburg, however, comes at a horrific human cost. After three days of fighting, the combined number of casualties exceeds 50,000. Nine of the 120 participating generals are killed or mortally wounded. Gettysburg becomes the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.
Gettysburg National Military Park recounts those momentous first three days of July in 1863. Blue Rim Tour participants will begin their battlefield immersion at the Museum and Visitor Center with its extensive displays of artifacts, the film A New Birth of Freedom (narrated by Morgan Freeman) and the famous Cyclorama painting, which depicts Pickett’s Charge. An in-depth, two-hour, narrated bus tour, stopping at several key battlefield locations, will complete the day’s activities.
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